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As GPS units are becoming smaller and less expensive, there is a
growing number of applications for you to choose from. For traveling
and transportation, the GPS unit assists in pinpointing locations and
finding the right route to a certain destination. Farmers can use GPS
units to guide equipment and control accurate distribution of
fertilizers and other chemicals. If on vacation, GPS units are used as
a navigation tool for hikers, hunters, and boaters. The applications
of GPS technology will continue to increase in the future, making this
technology commonplace in the lives of millions of people.

Selecting a GPS unit is dependent on two basic things: budget and
uses. Obviously the first is easier to evaluate. Selecting a GPS unit
has become somewhat more difficult due to their popularity, with
hundreds of models available from a variety of manufacturers. In
order to be in a position to choose from the various GPS solutions
that are present in the consumer marketplace, it is necessary to
have a reasonable understanding of what they can offer, as well as
what the user is expecting from the solution.

To simplify the process you can divide the GPS units into three
categories: recreational, mapping, and survey. The recreational units
are the most common. Hikers, boaters, hunters, and anglers all use
them to navigate or mark waypoints. Lower end units do not come
with built in maps nor can maps be downloaded to them from CD-
ROM. Higher end models usually come with a built in map as well as
the ability to download additional points-of-interest maps from CD-
ROM. The mapping units are more accurate and can achieve sub-
meter accuracy. They are therefore useful in creating accurate maps.
Survey units cost much more, reaching $40000 and achieve
accuracy within several centimeters.

gps unit

When buying a GPS unit, there are several components that need to
be looked at. There is the GPS receiver (or antenna), the part which
uses the received information to estimate where the device is
located on an internal map, the route planning and the display of
the GPS. Each part can vary considerably, from limited location
information to full color three dimensional maps of the immediate
surroundings and advised route.

One of the more important applications to consider is the in-car (or
in-vehicle) GPS unit. These units need to be reasonably accurate,
reliable, and contain details of all the roads, and important
addresses (gas stations, railroads etc.) and points of interest for the
region in which the device will be operating. These units may be part
of the in-vehicle entertainment system or installed under the
dashboard. Portable GPS units suitable for in-vehicle use offer a
great alternative to those which are integrated within a particular
vehicle. However, they will not be able to override the in-vehicle
entertainment device (CD player, etc.) and so the voice commands
might be drowned out by the music.

Then there are portable units designed for general use, which have
a limited road database, and reasonable terrain information. They
are small enough to be carried in the palm of your hand. However,
a recent trend has seen PDA manufacturers attaching a GPS antenna,
and providing sophisticated software and maps which use the power
of the PDA to give an excellent solution. They might not be rugged,
but they do provide a very good base for both in-vehicle and general

In a different application, maritime GPS units need very specific
features. First, they need to be waterproof and contain additional
information that can be plotted on nautical charts. Their maps are
also very specific, giving undersea elevations as well as navigable
channel information. This includes devices such as fishfinders, which
build other fishing related features into the basic GPS unit. A
fishfinder is very useful for positioning, tracking and helping the
fishing enthusiast to locate schools of fish at sea.

Associated technologies such as GPS Tracking units have also
evolved, where the user wears a watch which relays their position
via radio to a central control center. This tracking information is then
used in conjunction with an alert system to track anything from
vehicles to people.

When choosing a GPS unit, it is important to bear in mind that each
type will be updated in a different way. For example, dedicated in-
vehicle units tend to be updated via a CD, which has to be purchased
from the road map data supplier. Those that are attached to a PDA,
as well as most handheld dedicated GPS devices, are usually
updated via a PC. They also need maps, but maps that can be
acquired at a much lower price.

Being able to update the GPS unit easily and at a reasonable cost is
a very important part of the buying decision process. The less you
spend on updating it, the less useful it becomes since the road
networks are always changing. This is perhaps less important for
devices aimed at hiking and orienteering, but could be a factor in
deciding whether a multi-function device is better than one dedicated
to a specific use.

Portability of a GPS unit is affected by weight and size, as well as the
antenna. This could have an effect on the features that the device
offers clearly if the screen is tiny, and the whole unit is about the
size of a cell phone, then some advanced features will not be fitted.
The mapping and updating capabilities are also important. Should it
be able to accept any old map from a PC, or is it enough that the
unit is replaced after 5 years? Technology moves almost as fast as
the roads are updated, so this could be an option.

Taking in consideration all these elements will help you determine
what type of GPS unit is right for you.

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